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Floods wreak havoc across Chile

Chile, S.A.
Image: Atacalco Bridge on the Diguillin river south of Santiago, shows damage (AFP)

Heavy rain and flooding in Chile have displaced 15,000 people and shut down the world's largest copper mine, according to the government.

So far, five people are known to have died in the floods - described by some as the worst in at least two decades.

Road and railway bridges have collapsed, and at least seven rivers have burst their banks.

There is also a shortage of drinking water after floodwaters churned up sediment at water treatment plants.

The rains started in the middle of this week and have hardly stopped since. The hardest-hit region has been the central valley, immediately south of the capital, Santiago.

A railway bridge collapsed under the weight of a raging torrent of water and a road bridge fell apart on the Pan American Highway, in effect cutting the country in two.

Those who have died were either swept away by rising rivers or killed by mudslides and falling trees.

In the capital, five months worth of rain fell in the space of eight hours, turning streets into rivers and forcing residents out of their homes.

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